WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high glucose blood sugar. The World Health Organization recognizes three main forms of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes, which have similar consequences and symptoms but different causes and population distributions. Type 1 is usually caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin producing cells. Type 2 is involves insulin resistance which can progress to loss of beta cell function. Gestational diabetes is due to a poor interaction between fetal needs and maternal metabolic controls.
Types 1 and 2 are incurable but treatable with insulin. Diabetes can result in many complications. Acute glucose level abnormalities can occur if insulin level is not well-controlled, such as increased risk of heart disease, renal failure, nerve damage, impotence, and poor healing.
WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF DIABETES
- Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
- Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
- Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
- Your employer does not allow you to receive insulin shots at work or to leave to receive insulin shots
- Your employer does not accommodate your dietary needs
HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE DIABETES
To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:
- his or her disability results in physical limitations
- that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
- and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability
Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, diabetes can render an individual disabled, deserving of protection from discrimination. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's diabetes. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with diabetes so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, the employer has an obligation to accommodate an employee's need to receive insulin shots, whether that means receiving the injection at work or going to the doctor to receive them.
Diabetes is also a medical condition, within the definition of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, deserving of protection from discrimination. FEHA defines a medical condition as any health impairment related to, or associated with, a diagnosis of cancer, for which a person has been rehabilitated or cured, based on competent medical evidence; or any genetic characteristic.
An employer may not take an adverse action (such as firing, refusing to hire, or failing to accommodate an employee's needs) on the basis of an employee's medical condition. An employer has an obligation to accommodate the employee by allowed him or her to attend medical appointments, receive treatment, and provide reasonable on-site accommodations for the condition.
- For Legal Help see Finding an Attorney and David H. Greenberg, California Employment Law Attorney.